So, Irvine Welsh, the "chronicler of the chemical generation", shock-jock writer of Trainspotting, has come out as a Tory. I don't know why anyone is in the least bit surprised about this. It seems obvious that the innate conservatism of his books -- and of so much "cult fiction" -- reflected an essentially conservative mind. One can only hope that more readers will now realise that writing about smack, or porn, or other drearier aspects of the quotidian, does not a revolutionary make. Transgressive writing is rarely progressive and rarely very good.

Nice: Protesting All Fiction Writers! -- Tom Bissell on the Underground Literary Alliance (via Wet Asphalt)

Readers Comments

  1. I await inevitable claims that it was a wind-up or was isolated qualified remarks taken out of context.

    However, Jeanette Winterson was positively gushing about David Cameron's faux green credentials recently (she has a second home in his Oxfordshire constituency), arguing Blair had let her down over Europe and she might be tempted to cast her vote for the Tories, just for that nice David Cameron chap who's so in touch with the needs of Notting Hill folk. Why did this bizarre conversion not receive similar disdain?

  2. I'm sure you've noticed that a long-lost poem by Shelley has been found:,,25341-2266779,00.html

    It raises some interesting questions, the most pressing of which to my mind is why the hell aren't we allowed to read it now, this minute, this second?

  3. Read the original:

    Welsh says some positive things about Cameron, and acknowledges that he's lost some of his chippiness about middle-class people; he admits that some pleasant people he's met have been Tories.

    Nowehere does he say that he's a Tory. Slow news day. Silly season. Blah blah.

  4. Andrew - I remember reading years ago in an article by Ms Winterson saying she voted for Maggie in 1979, I've also read her praising the grammar school system and fox hunting. In short, it's not much of a "conversion" on her part, so less "shocking" than Welsh. On the other hand these comments are qualified isolated remarks taken out of context.........

    Seriously, what Tim says is right. Welsh's remarks do not say he's a Tory at all, these are more like the "ah, well, I can see the other guy's point of view now" mixed with the growing apoliticisation with age (and cash) that affects many. I find them a bit wearisome and disappointing, but a party election broadcast for the Tories they ain't.

    For the record I am a mild fan of Welsh. While I fully agree with Mark that writing about "smack, or porn, or other drearier aspects of the quotidian" certainly doesn't make anyone revolutionary, and plenty of transgressive literature is both anti-progressive and simply poor, I don't think either applies to Welsh. The way undeniably left-wing messages are somewhat unsubtly riven through, for instance, Marabou Stork Nightmares and Filth would seem to contradict this.

  5. Ben,

    I saw her grammar school whinge too -- she didn't get to go to one and reach her potential earlier, ergo those who abolished them were 'morons'.

    A few years back, Welsh said he would support the Scottish Nationalist Party were it not for the fact that Alex Salmond was a rabid Hearts fan. Most of that set of Scottish writers tend to gravitate towards the Scottish Socialist Party, who've certainly done the legwork to get them (Calton Hill Declaration etc).

    It's not as clear cut as in the US, where you have two parties in a highly charged polarised system. In 2004 the Democrats could count on the New York publishing set to endorse them and more recently a group did that Proud to be a Liberal book. It'd never happen here. At the last General Election, the New Statesman asked a range of authors who they'd vote for. Surprisingly, JG Ballard said he'd vote Labour, grudgingly, but that he felt let down by Blair. I've seen Will Self give lukewarm endorsements for the Lib Dems.

    1936 Spanish Civil War it aint though (John Walsh's piece in the Indy recently was superb).

  6. Indeed it ain't. I seem to recall reading something about Gollancz sending out a circular asking writers where they stood on the Spanish Civil War, and collating the replies. Orwell was very angry, saying, "Why do they bother with this shit?" and refusing to take part. I think it was a fairly laudable project myself, though I can see where old George was coming from. Predictably, the only one to come out in favour of Franco was Evelyn Waugh.

    I think there has always been a strong degree of the apolitical about Welsh, he was just so drenched in his Hibs working-class socialist upbringing that it had to come out in his writing, and with the wearing effects of age and wealth in one so uncomitted that was bound to subside. I think you're right in saying his lack of support for the SSP and silly-arsed football based non-flirtation with the SNP are quite symptomatic of this.

    In a way however his lack of "commitment" and *relative* lack of polemicising (as I said, Marabou and Flith are among several exceptions to this) are what I liked about his voice, giving it -to me- a more authentic feel. And I still think at his best he has both a feel for everyday language and a willingness to experiment in form that make the charge of structural conservatism in his writing, quite apart from political conservatism, a bit unfair.

  7. Didn't someone do something similar to the Gollancz pamphlet about the Iraq war? Does anybody remember who came out for? Hitchens, obviously... I seem to recall Rushide leaning in that direction, but he's gone quiet since.

  8. There's a story in 'Ecstacy' where Welsh has fun at the expense of a student revolutionary turned Blairite middle manager.

    Dan Rhodes tried to get the other writers on the 2003 Granta Young British Authors list to participate in some joint declaration against the Iraq war. A handful made positive noises and the rest told him to fuck off. Some pundits said it wasn't the business of writers to do that sort of thing.

    I think Salman Rushdie generally speaks out on anything concerning Islamism and public policy, for obvious reasons.

  9. On tonight's Newsnight Review

    "I'd rather be accused of being a Hearts supporter or a paedophile. I was expressing a sneaking admiration for people like Blair and Cameron who just destroy there parties in their quest for power. That's all."

    So he won't be joining Jeanette at the Berkshire hunt after all......

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